I’ve been a fan of RTS games since I was a kid and grew up playing Red Alert 2, Age of Empires, and Age of Mythology. I think I may have found the game that will make me go back to playing RTS games again with Thronefall. This is actually a good fusion of all the RTS games that I mentioned with a little bit of inspiration from roguelikes and bullet hells as you will see later on.
GrizzlyGames basically mashed all my favorite genres and theme in one game: strategy, city-builder, tower defense, and most importantly, a medieval setting. They have also released other games such as Islanders and Superflight, in which both received positive Steam reviews.
And after playing Thronefall, I’ve suddenly become a fan of this indie developer, and want to explore their other titles. So let’s dive into our first impressions of this castle defense game.
Presentation & Graphics
Thronefall presents us with a colorful low-poly atmosphere that looks great. They are proving to other AAA studios that you don’t need “fancy” graphics to have a better gameplay experience, similar to what Battlebit is doing with their title.
Initially, I thought the building mechanics here felt a bit weird because I was expecting that I could place buildings anywhere. But they actually did a good job with properly placing markers on where structures should be built.
And it does work well to maintain the beautiful presentation of constructing your base. The art style also reminds me of Dorfromantik, almost making it feel like a cozy game.
The devs should try exploring more game modes in the next Thronefall updates to give us more options in playing. Maybe get the community involved in creating their own levels via Steam Workshop if this game gets enough traction.
Level Design & Gameplay
Thronefall has four different areas to explore. The first level counts as an introduction or tutorial where you familiarize yourself with the gameplay mechanics.
Start with building a castle then you spend all your gold to build structures that can help in defending your base. It can range from houses, mills, towers, walls, and more.
Once you’re done spending all of your gold, you can trigger nighttime where the enemy hordes will start attacking your realm.
There are circular indicators around the map so you would know what types of enemies will strike against you. This is where your tactical abilities are put to the test. The game’s over once your castle is destroyed, so you must defend it with your life.
Command Your Own Soldiers
I remember playing The Unliving, another early access title that I reviewed, and commanding armies in that game felt clunky. But I think Thronefall has managed to get this one right. It’s easy to find your hero, and there are never enough enemies and allies on-screen to overwhelm you.
Leading your soldiers to battle feels like playing chess because you need to know which type of soldiers you should train to face different kinds of enemies. For instance, if your next enemy wave involves Monsters, you need to train Hunters to counter their attacks. Or if you’re facing an army of Archers, you can use the Knights to hold off their barrage of arrows.
It does get annoying when your soldiers are aggressive by default. Like it doesn’t make sense for ranged unit types to charge the front lines since they’re not as durable as the melee unit types.
I actually learned this late after their early access announcement that they added a new function to let your units hold their position. You have to hold the command button for around one second for your units to stay put in a certain location.
Thronefall offers enough varieties of enemies to face. From raiders, archers, and knights to peculiar creatures such as a weird snake, a rolling exploding ball, and more. I’m so bad at describing what kinds of monsters I’m facing. I think it would be better if we also had some bestiary or lore to consult with.
I was scared when most of my structures got destroyed by the late-game enemy waves thinking that I would need to spend gold to repair my damaged base. But to my surprise, all the damaged structures get automatically restored the next day.
It’s Surprisingly an RPG Roguelite
For a “short” game as how the devs described it, you’re going to get sucked into Thronefall’s gameplay loop trying to remember every build to survive the waves of monsters and soldiers.
I like how they described Thronefall as “a strategy game without all the headache” but on the later levels, you’ll feel like you’re about to rage quit. There was one point in the game where it felt repetitive especially when I was already aware of the enemy waves that I’m about to face. I specifically felt this in Durststein and Frostsee.
Maybe explore randomizing the enemy waves for each area, so I get to think of different ways to beat the waves instead of being fixated on one strategy.
I also like the fact that Thronefall also implements a level-up system, not just aiming for a high score. You get to unlock different weapons, perks, and mutators. So far, I love using the sword for that satisfying splash damage.
Maxing out your level and unlocking everything will probably take you less than 10 hours. Want a more challenging run? Try completing the other extra quests for each area. Wanna turn your realm-defending experience into Dark Souls? Add tons of mutators, rage quit, repeat.
If the devs plan on supporting multiplayer, I wish they could have a co-op mode so we can play with friends.
After over 10 hours of playing and frustratingly dying on Frostsee and finally beating the game, I conclude that Thronefall is very addictive, especially if you’re a fan of medieval battles. The team did a good job of hooking you to Thronefall’s game loop, especially the way that they added some hints of RPG and roguelike elements into their base defense game.
They also did a stellar job in designing their low-poly assets. It’s so satisfying to control your ruler trying your best to defend every area of your realm. The immersion is insane to the point where it feels like you’re playing Age of Empires.
How did you like our first impressions of Thronefall? Are you planning to add this game to your Steam collection? Let us know in the comments section.
These first impressions are based on the PC Version of Thronefall. The key was provided by Future Friends Games.